Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Car/Two Bike Family

One Christmas when I was about seven or eight, Santa brought me a bike. I woke up to find my gift dramatically displayed beneath the tree. In pieces. It was an enormous two-wheeler, which I didn't yet know how to ride, in a dreary shade of olive green. Santa must have known that my next door neighbor worked for the city's parks & rec department and was constantly collecting abandoned bikes and parts and repairing and restoring them in his garage. I wonder what he did with all of those...? Clearly, he was in business with Santa. I wasn't sure whether this bike was something I was supposed to like and just didn't know it yet, or whether Santa had made a huge miscalculation as he sorted gifts for the good boys and girls on his list. Or maybe I'd been worse that year than I realized.

I'm sure I woke my parents and I'm sure they asked what Santa left under the tree for me. I'm sure I remember putting on a brave face and trying to muster excitement about the ugly, disassembled beast of a bike in the living room. Once everyone was up and ready to open presents, my dad suggested that we move the bike parts into the garage where our neighbor could help us put them together later. I helped him gather wheels and pedals and handlebars. The feeling in the pit of my stomach made it even more surprising when someone opened the door to the garage and revealed a glorious, shiny new Huffy Sea Princess two-wheeler with training wheels! It was just my size, in the most beautiful shades of pink and sea-foam green. I was overjoyed and wasn't even suspicious that Santa had a sense of humor remarkably similar to my dad. 

I don't remember when I outgrew that Huffy but at some point in middle school, I started borrowing my dad's ten-speed mountain bike to ride to swim practice and friends' houses. He was just telling me that it was his first big purchase after an important promotion, and how he agonized all day about spending that much on something for himself - especially a bike, when he was used to spending $20, $30, $40... I stopped riding his bike in high school, once everyone I knew had a drivers license. I don't think I remember riding a bike again until my sister lent me her beach cruiser. She asked me to take good care of it when she moved away from her small college town to spend a year as an au pair in Amsterdam. Jon bought himself a nice beach cruiser and we spent some nice weekend afternoons cruising around town.

Alas, my sister reclaimed her bike when she moved back to California and Jon lost his weekend biking partner. That Huffy Sea Princess was the last bike that properly belonged to me - until last weekend!

Part of our one-car family plan was for both of us to have a bike to use if the other person needs the car at any given time. If Jon needs to go into his office, or needs the car at home for any appointments or errands, I wanted to be able to get myself to and from work without needing him to drop me off or pick me up. If I need the car at work, Jon didn't want to be limited just to stroller radius. Two things needed to happen to make this plan work. Number one happened for Jon's birthday a few weeks ago:

one baby bike seat & bunny helmet.
Jon got a WeeRide Kangaroo bike seat for his cruiser so he and Alice can hit the town on two wheels instead of three or four! These photos are from their inaugural ride a few weekends ago. Alice totally enjoyed it, despite her ambivalent looks here. She doesn't even mind wearing her helmet, though sometimes she cries about having to put it back on to go home, and is usually ready to take it off as soon as she's on the ground again. Jon's been testing their bike-accessible range with trips to the park and a few errands.

And then last weekend, after a bit of web-based research, we hit up the super legit Flying Pigeon bike shop to see if we couldn't get thing number two squared away. 

I had ridden my sister's bike to work one summer afternoon and learned there is just enough incline between my office and my house to necessitate a few gears. So that was definitely my top priority as I started considering the options. I didn't want (or need) a mountain or road bike, and I'm not indy enough for a fixed-gear (or "fixie"), or urban enough for a folding bike so I always sort of assumed that beach cruisers were the only other alternative. And then I rode an omafiets when we visited my sister in Amsterdam.

"Dutch-style" bikes, also known as "city" bikes, are becoming quite trendy here and I've been seeing all kinds of pretty styles on the pretty blogs I follow. It wasn't long before the omafiets replaced the beach cruiser in my bike fantasies. Unfortunately, these pretty bikes all seem to come at a pretty price. The lovely models below, available from Adeline, Adeline, are all $1,200 or more.
top row: Pashley Britannia ($1,295), Gazelle Toer Populair ($1,359) bottom row: Workcycles Omafiets ($1,599), Retrovelo Klara ($1,450)
Fortunately, there are a few more affordable options ranging anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of those fancy prices. I narrowed my sights onto the Schwinn Jenny, the Public C-7, and the Linus Dutchi 3. I called all the local retailers to find out what I could try out in person. The websites suggested that Flying Pigeon carried both Public and Linus bikes, so I called to see what they had in stock. The girl I spoke with said they didn't have any Public bikes in their shop, but they did have one Linus Dutchi 3-Speed. She also mentioned that the handlebars were a big difference between the Linus and the Public models, with Publics having straighter bars more like a mountain bike and the Linus having curved handles more like a Dutch bike. I decided to head down to their shop to check out the Linus, figuring I could start there and track down a Public or a Schwinn if I needed to keep shopping.

Well, it was love at first sight. I took it for a test drive up and down the block, and tested out the fancy twist-shift gears. Just for comparison, I also tested out the AM★DAM  2-speed:

AM★DAM  2-speed

which was a bit too bare bones and a bit too legit (too legit to quit) for me. I wasn't sold on the kick shift, and I liked that the Linus had hand brakes. So I bought the Linus. And then they told me it was like, the very last red Dutchi ever, until they make the new models. Behold, my shiny, new red bike.

so shiny and pretty!
The shop installed a sweet headlight and tail light (which I'll really get to test after Daylight Savings ends this weekend), and I got a saddle bag so I can carry my lunch, purse, and gym bag on my commute. I was also super excited that the bike came with a vial of touch up paint. The girl said you could also use nail polish, in a pinch, and now I'm kind of obsessed about finding the exact perfect shade of OPI nail lacquer that will do double duty on my fingers and toes and on any nicks or scratches in my pretty bike.

As soon as we brought it home on Saturday, we loaded Alice in her new bike seat and took our first family bike ride. I loved pulling up alongside Jon's bike and seeing Alice grin! We rode down to the park for a little picnic, play time, and a stop by the Lake Street Creamery truck for a little taste of my current obsession, Don Draper-flavored ice cream (whiskey, smoke, and caramel - just what I imagine licking Don Draper tastes like).

Then the weekend ended, and after three years of talking about it, I finally made my first bike commute on Monday morning. It was so glorious, I did it again on Tuesday. I would have ridden today as well, but Jon dropped me off so we can go to an appointment this afternoon. My company will reward me $2 for every day that I commute by bike to work, so it's great incentive to do it every day! My company also offers reward incentives for participating in a health and wellness program. I qualified for the full reward amount this year, now that my weight is within the healthy BMI range. With the wellness rewards and the commuter incentives (not to mention the savings in gas costs), my bike should pay for itself in two years. Not a bad deal, and I get to burn some extra calories to boot! 

say it like Ace Ventura: "saddle bags!"

I was reading a bunch of articles about biking and read a quote from someone (maybe the founder of Public Bikes, who also founded Design Within Reach) saying that biking makes cities more civilized. After only two bike commutes, I'm inclined to agree. Who knows, maybe this is just the start of a new era. Maybe someday, you'll see me chauffeuring two kids around in this "mommy bike!"

Gazelle Bloom "mommy bike"


  1. This is so inspiring. I feel like you, Jon, and Alice are living the ideal life in your cozy green house. A one car / two bike family has been a dream of mine too. I'm not sure if we can swing it out on the farm, but maybe soon.

    Also, congratulations on reaching a healthy BMI. Your company is so awesome to reward your healthy lifestyle. And you really do look great. I try not to talk about that kind of stuff too much because I know it can make for superficial conversation, but it takes hard work and commitment to make changes and I wanted to tell you that it hasn't gone unnoticed. It's refreshing to hear of someone wanting to be more HEALTHY rather than just thinner. Great work my friend.

    Please keep the posts coming. I love to read about the Senges. They're one of my favorite families!

  2. Thanks, Kristen! We're still figuring out our ideal life and trying to pull it all together, but I think we're on the right track! We were worried about committing to the one-car thing. I think we'll be able to make it work if we put a high enough priority on it, but it definitely isn't feasible in every circumstance.

    And thanks for the encouraging words, I file them away when I'm feeling more lazy than healthy and use them for motivation!

  3. I second Kristen's remarks - go team Senge! You all are so cute on wheels!

  4. I am just so excited about all this!! Also I totally teared up reading the old familiar story about that Christmas long ago. I love that one. It's the perfect surprise! Glad you have the perfect bike. There's no feeling quite like it!


I love to hear from you! Kind words only, please...